Kenyan elephant numbers plummet by 1000 in four years

IT'S a case of up then down for Kenya's second largest population of elephants. After a promising growth spurt, the elephants are now dying faster than they are being born. The decline is being blamed on illegal poaching, driven by Asia's demand for ivory.

The Kenya Wildlife Service recently conducted a census of the Samburu/Laikipia population, the country's second largest. It found that the population lost over 1000 elephants in just four years, and now stands at 6361. Previous censuses in 1992, 1998, 2002 and 2008 had revealed a growing population, which appears to have peaked at 7415 in 2008.

Poaching is suspected. A July report by three conservation groups found that it has been on the rise across Africa since 2006. Poaching is also spreading eastwards from central Africa into countries like Kenya, says Richard Thomas of TRAFFIC in Cambridge, UK, one of the three groups that drafted the report. The July report found that more than half of all elephants found dead in Africa in 2011 had been illegally killed.

The rise in poaching appears to be driven by increasing affluence in China and Thailand, where ivory is often used to make religious sculptures and other decorations.

Organised criminal gangs have capitalised on this increased demand. "If it's worth someone's while to smuggle the ivory, they'll take the risk," Thomas says. There is evidence that gangs are moving into Kenya to hunt elephants.

If you would like to reuse any content from New Scientist, either in print or online, please contact the syndication department first for permission. New Scientist does not own rights to photos, but there are a variety of licensing options available for use of articles and graphics we own the copyright to.

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S'pore & Indian armies conduct joint exercise in India

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Indian Army (IA) have conducted a bilateral artillery exercise in Devlali, India.

The two-week exercise from 24 November to 8 December, codenamed Agni Warrior, saw the two armies carrying out combined artillery live-firing.

The Defence Ministry said the exercise has enhanced the mutual understanding and interoperability between the two armies.

It added Exercise Agni Warrior is conducted under the ambit of the Bilateral Agreement for Joint Army Training and Exercises between both armies.

Apart from bilateral exercises, the SAF and the Indian Armed Forces also interact regularly through visits, courses, seminars and other professional exchanges.

- CNA/xq

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Man killed in extra-alarm fire

Scene of La Grange fire (WGN-TV)

Scene of La Grange fire (WGN-TV)
(December 8, 2012)

A 3-11 alarm fire broke out in southwest suburban La Grange early this morning, killing a man and landing another person in the hospital, officials said.

Firefighters rushed to a home in the 900 block of Kensington Avenue about 1:30 a.m., said Captain David Rapp of the La Grange Fire Department.

A man in his 90s was transported from the home to Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3:32 a.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.

Another person was also transported to the hospital, Rapp said.

Firefighters have extinguished the fire, but officials are still working to determine its cause, Rapp said.

Check back for more information.
Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking

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Plants Grow Fine Without Gravity

When researchers sent plants to the International Space Station in 2010, the flora wasn't meant to be decorative. Instead, the seeds of these small, white flowers—called Arabidopsis thaliana—were the subject of an experiment to study how plant roots developed in a weightless environment.

Gravity is an important influence on root growth, but the scientists found that their space plants didn't need it to flourish. The research team from the University of Florida in Gainesville thinks this ability is related to a plant's inherent ability to orient itself as it grows. Seeds germinated on the International Space Station sprouted roots that behaved like they would on Earth—growing away from the seed to seek nutrients and water in exactly the same pattern observed with gravity. (Related: "Beyond Gravity.")

Since the flowers were orbiting some 220 miles (350 kilometers) above the Earth at the time, the NASA-funded experiment suggests that plants still retain an earthy instinct when they don't have gravity as a guide.

"The role of gravity in plant growth and development in terrestrial environments is well understood," said plant geneticist and study co-author Anna-Lisa Paul, with the University of Florida in Gainesville. "What is less well understood is how plants respond when you remove gravity." (See a video about plant growth.)

The new study revealed that "features of plant growth we thought were a result of gravity acting on plant cells and organs do not actually require gravity," she added.

Paul and her collaborator Robert Ferl, a plant biologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, monitored their plants from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida using images sent from the space station every six hours.

Root Growth

Grown on a nutrient-rich gel in clear petri plates, the space flowers showed familiar root growth patterns such as "skewing," where roots slant progressively as they branch out.

"When we saw the first pictures come back from orbit and saw that we had most of the skewing phenomenon we were quite surprised," Paul said.

Researchers have always thought that skewing was the result of gravity's effects on how the root tip interacts with the surfaces it encounters as it grows, she added. But Paul and Ferl suspect that in the absence of gravity, other cues take over that enable the plant to direct its roots away from the seed and light-seeking shoot. Those cues could include moisture, nutrients, and light avoidance.

"Bottom line is that although plants 'know' that they are in a novel environment, they ultimately do just fine," Paul said.

The finding further boosts the prospect of cultivating food plants in space and, eventually, on other planets.

"There's really no impediment to growing plants in microgravity, such as on a long-term mission to Mars, or in reduced-gravity environments such as in specialized greenhouses on Mars or the moon," Paul said. (Related: "Alien Trees Would Bloom Black on Worlds With Double Stars.")

The study findings appear in the latest issue of the journal BMC Plant Biology.

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Federal Agencies Brace for Deep Cuts Post-'Cliff'

Dec 7, 2012 4:22pm

gty barack obama john boehner ll 121206 wblog Federal Agencies Brace for Deep Cuts Post Cliff

Toby Jorrin/AFP/Getty Images

With the “fiscal cliff” quickly approaching, federal agencies are stepping up preparations for deep automatic budget cuts that will kick in Jan. 2 unless the White House and Congress can reach a deal.

The Office of Management and Budget told ABC News that a memo went out to federal agencies earlier this week seeking “additional information and analysis” in order to finalize spending cuts required if we go off the cliff.

The agencies are considering which workers to furlough, projects to put on hold and offices that will have to close.

The request follows the administration’s release of a 400-page report in September that outlined the budget areas to be impacted by the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts and what percentages they would be slashed.

READ MORE: White House Details ‘Doomsday’ Budget Cuts

Billions of dollars could be slashed from defense operations and maintenance programs. Medicare would take a two-percent hit, trimming millions in payouts to health care providers. Scientific research programs would be gutted. Aid for the poor and needy would be sharply curtailed.

The report also detailed operations that would be exempt from any cuts, including active-duty military operations, nuclear watchdogs, homeland security officials, veterans care and other critical areas.

READ: Pentagon Begins Planning for ‘Cliff’ Cuts

Asked about the agency preparations underway, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that OMB “must take certain steps to ensure the administration is ready to issue such an order should Congress fail to act.”

“Earlier this week, OMB issued a request to federal agencies for additional information to finalize calculations on the spending reductions that would be required,” Carney said.

“This action should not be read … as a change in the administration’s commitment to reach an agreement and avoid sequestration.  OMB is simply ensuring that the administration is prepared, should it become necessary to issue such an order,” he said. “OMB will continue to consult with agencies and will provide additional guidance as needed.  This is just acting responsibly because of the potential for this happening.”

Get more pure politics at and a lighter take on the news at

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Laos ratifies WTO membership

BANGKOK: Laos has ratified its membership of the World Trade Organisation, state media said on Friday, the latest step in the small Southeast Asian nation's 15-year effort to join the global body.

The Laotian parliament on Thursday formally gave its approval, paving the way for the country's entrance to the 157-member organisation in early 2013, according to a report in the government mouthpiece Vientiane Times.

It said most lawmakers "supported the government's decision to join the WTO, saying it was a golden opportunity for Laos to benefit from market liberalisation".

The WTO General Council gave its approval for Laotian membership in October, with the organisation's chief Pascal Lamy saying the landlocked communist country had "come a long way since it embarked on the road to membership in 1997".

Laos is one of Southeast Asia's poorest nations and the only one in the region yet to join the WTO. About 28 percent of the population still lives in poverty, according to a 2008 estimate from the World Bank.

The country has enjoyed robust economic growth of more than seven percent a year over the past decade.

Entry into the WTO club brings with it the promise of increased trade volume and new trade partners for Laos, as well as the prospect of fresh investment pouring into the country.

The move is also part of the country's stated ambition to graduate from least developed country status by 2020.

Laos Deputy Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith said the move was part of the country's efforts to attract foreign investment, but conceded that membership would increase competition and put pressure on small local firms, the Vientiane Times said.

Since negotiations got under way properly in 2004, Laos has adopted dozens of laws to bring it in line with WTO requirements in areas such as investment, food safety, animal health, import and export procedures and intellectual property rights - a flurry of activity rarely seen in the state.

- AFP/de

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Michigan GOP approves right to work amid protests

LANSING, Mich. — Republicans slammed right-to-work legislation through the Michigan House and Senate Thursday, drawing raucous protests from throngs of stunned union supporters, whose outnumbered Democratic allies were powerless to stop it.

Just hours after they were introduced, both chambers approved measures prohibiting private unions from requiring that nonunion employees pay fees. The Senate quickly followed by voting to impose the same requirement on most public unions.

Although rumors had circulated for weeks that right-to-work measures might surface during the session's waning days, the speed with which the GOP-dominated Legislature acted Thursday caught many onlookers by surprise. Details of the bills weren't made publicly available until they were read aloud on both floors as debate began.

The chaos drew raucous protests from hundreds of union supporters, some of whom were pepper-sprayed by police when they tried to storm the Senate chamber.

Because of rules requiring a five-day delay between votes in the two chambers on the same legislation, final enactment could not take place until Tuesday at the earliest. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who previously had said repeatedly that right-to-work was "not on my agenda," told reporters Thursday he would sign the measures.

Democrats denounced the bills as an attack on worker rights, but the GOP sponsor insisted they would boost the economy and jobs. A House vote on public-sector unions was expected to come later.

A victory in Michigan would give the right-to-work movement its strongest foothold yet in the Rust Belt region, where organized labor already has suffered several body blows. Republicans in Indiana and Wisconsin recently pushed through legislation curbing union rights, sparking massive protests.

Even before the Michigan bills turned up, protesters streamed inside the Capitol preparing for what appeared inevitable after Snyder, House Speaker Jase Bolger and Senate Minority Leader Randy Richardville announced at a news conference they were putting the issue on a fast track.

"This is all about taking care of the hard-working workers in Michigan, being pro-worker and giving them freedom to make choices," Snyder said.

"The goal isn't to divide Michigan, it is to bring Michigan together," Snyder said.

But Democrats said the legislation — and Republicans' tactics — would poison the state's political atmosphere.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley repeatedly gaveled for order during the Senate debate as Democrats attacked the legislation to applause from protesters in the galley. At one point, a man shouted, "Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler! That's what you people are." He was quickly escorted out. Another later yelled, "We will remember in November."

Eight people were arrested for resisting and obstructing when they tried to push past two troopers guarding the Senate door, state police Inspector Gene Adamczyk said.

Protesters waved placards and chanted slogans such as "Union buster" and "Right-to-work has got to go." Adamczyk said the troopers used pepper spray after the people refused to obey orders to stop.

The Capitol, which was temporarily closed because of safety concerns, reopened Thursday afternoon, sending hundreds of protesters streaming back inside with chants of, "Whose house? Our house!" Adamczyk said a judge ordered the building reopened.

The decision to push forward in the waning days of the Legislature's lame-duck session infuriated outnumbered Democrats, who resorted to parliamentary maneuvers to slow action but were powerless to block the bills.

House Democrats did walk out briefly Thursday in protest of the Capitol being closed.

Adamczyk estimated that about 2,500 visitors were inside the Capitol, where their shouts reverberated off stone halls and frequently could be heard inside the ornate chambers.

After repeatedly insisting during his first two years in office that right-to-work was not on his agenda, Snyder reversed course Thursday, a month after voters defeated a ballot initiative that would have barred such measures under the state constitution.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Snyder said he had kept the issue at arm's length while pursuing other programs to bolster the state economy. But he said circumstances had pushed the matter to the forefront.

"It is a divisive issue," he acknowledged. "But it was already being divisive over the past few weeks, so let's get this resolved. Let's reach a conclusion that's in the best interests of all."

Also influencing his decision, he said, were reports that some 90 companies had decided to locate in Indiana since that state adopted right-to-work legislation. "That's thousands of jobs, and we want to have that kind of success in Michigan," he said.

Snyder and the GOP leaders insisted the legislation was not meant to weaken unions or collective bargaining, saying it would make unions more responsive to their members.

Senate Democratic leader Gretchen Whitmer said she was "livid."

"These guys have lied to us all along the way," she said. "They are pushing through the most divisive legislation they could come up with in the dark of night, at the end of a lame-duck session and then they're going to hightail it out of town. It's cowardly."

Republicans have commanding majorities in both chambers — 64-46 in the House and 26-12 in the Senate. Under their rules, only a simple majority of members elected and serving must be present to have a quorum and conduct business. For that reason, Democrats acknowledged that boycotting sessions and going into hiding, as some lawmakers in neighboring Indiana and Wisconsin have done in recent years to stall legislation unpopular with unions, would be futile in Michigan.

Throngs of protesters spent weeks outside capitol buildings in those states, clashing over union rights.

"We will not have another Wisconsin in Michigan," Adamczyk said. "People are allowed to protest, but they need to do in a peaceful manner."

Associated Press

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Space Pictures This Week: Lunar Gravity, Venusian Volcano


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$("#ecom_43331 ul.ecommerce_all_img").append(html);


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var store_43331 = new ecommerce_43331();


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Fiscal Cliff Debate Puts Spotlight on Small Businesses

At a sprawling 25,000-square-foot factory outside Dayton, Ohio, David Curliss manufactures high-tech composite fibers, structural adhesives and special sealants known as syntactic foams. The small business he founded a decade ago has grown steadily since the recession, employing 21 workers on several production lines.

But now, with a tax hike on the horizon as part of a deficit-reduction deal as evisioned by President Obama and the Democrats, it may become more difficult to expand his business and hire, Curliss says.

"What it absolutely means is less cash for growth in my business," he told ABC News. "In the worst-case scenario, it means we let someone go or have to reduce benefits."

Curliss is among an estimated 940,000 Americans who will report more than $200,000 in business income on their individual tax returns in 2013 and pay at the top marginal rates, according to the bipartisan Joint Committee on Taxation.

They are now at the center of the political storm over the "fiscal cliff" and debate on whether to raise top income tax rates at the end of the year.

Obama wants the two upper tax brackets to rise from 33 and 35 percent to 36 and 39.6 percent, respectively. Republicans staunchly oppose any increase, largely citing the impact on companies like Curliss'.

Performance Polymer Solutions, like thousands of small businesses, is structured as a so-called "pass-through" entity with the firm's income and profits passed directly to Curliss for reporting on his 1040. The company itself does not pay taxes.

On paper, the extra cash makes Curliss look like a rich man, subjecting his income to the top rates. Yet, he never actually sees the business income in his paycheck, he says. Instead, the money is kept inside the business to help it grow.

"Raising the top rates means there will be less cash in my company to reinvest in employees and benefits and equipment," he said.

Democrats, defending the need for revenue from the top 2 percent of U.S. income earners to help close the budget gap, say cases like Curliss' are the exception not the rule.

"Ninety-seven percent of small businesses would not see any increases in their income taxes," Obama said Thursday. "And even folks who make more than $250,000 would still have a tax break for their incomes up to $250,000."

Just 3 percent of more than 30 million Americans who report business income on their personal returns next year will pay at the top marginal rates, the Joint Committee found.

Many of them, colloquially referred to as "business owners," include independent doctors, lawyers and hedge fund managers whose companies are set up as "pass-through" entities with high incomes and few employees.

Experts say the vast majority of businesses paying taxes through the individual code are very small, make very little money and don't come remotely close to having to pay higher taxes if Obama gets his way.

The average income of a business that reports on an individual tax return is about $40,000, according to the Tax Policy Center.

"Most of these are sole proprietorships and their number of employees is zero," said Howard Gleckman, an analyst with the Center, noting that self-employed taxpayers include babysitters, plumbers and investors.

"All things equal, the lower the taxes, the better off we all are," Gleckman said. "The trade-off, though, is that if you believe the budget deficit is a big economic problem, and if you believe that the ultimate consequence of ongoing high deficits is higher interest rates, well then that's a cost, too."

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Sat-Map: Explore the lights of the world from space

See our interactive map here: "Sat-Map: Explore the lights of the world from space"

If you would like to reuse any content from New Scientist, either in print or online, please contact the syndication department first for permission. New Scientist does not own rights to photos, but there are a variety of licensing options available for use of articles and graphics we own the copyright to.

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MOM says Jurong crane incident workers had approached ministry for help

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said the two workers from China involved in a crane incident at Jurong Port Road on Thursday morning had approached the ministry previously.

The two construction workers, Mr Zhu Guilei and Mr Wu Xiaolin, were at the top of the crane at a construction site at 31, Jurong Port Road, citing unhappiness with their employer Zhong Jiang (Singapore) International Pte Ltd.

In a statement, MOM said Mr Zhu had first come to the Ministry in July 2011 to enquire how he and his friend could resign and return home.

Mr Zhu was then working for a different company.

On Wednesday, Mr Zhu approached MOM's customer relations officers at the MOM Services Centre together with Mr Wu, as they had tendered their resignations and planned to return home.

They claimed they had outstanding salaries owed to them. However, they did not have the necessary documents to support their claims.

MOM officers asked them to return with the documents so that the ministry could investigate, and both Mr Zhu and Mr Wu had agreed to do so.

The MOM has stressed that it will not hesitate to take action against employers who fail to pay their workers on time.

And it urges workers not to take matters into their own hands and break the law. Those facing employment issues should approach MOM for advice and assistance. They can also call the MOM hotline at 6438 5122.

Separately in a statement, the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) said it is dismayed to hear of the protest by two migrant workers at Jurong Port Road on Thursday morning, especially in the light of recent developments.

Its Chairman Yeo Guat Kwang said this was a further reminder of the need to expand our outreach and engagement with migrant workers to raise their awareness of channels of help available to them.

- CNA/de

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Burglars hit Jimmy Choo store in Gold Coast


(December 6, 2012)

Three men forced their way through the front door of a Jimmy Choo store on Oak Street overnight and walked out with a "large amount" of shoes and handbags, police said.

The burglary happened about 1:45 a.m., Police News Affairs Officer John Mirabelli said.

"Two offenders pried open the front door. . .and all three remained in the store, removing various items," Mirabelli said.

The trio fled in a four-door vehicle with bags and shoes.

No one was in custody.
Twitter: @peternickeas

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A 2020 Rover Return to Mars?

NASA is so delighted with Curiosity's Mars mission that the agency wants to do it all again in 2020, with the possibility of identifying and storing some rocks for a future sample return to Earth.

The formal announcement, made at the American Geophysical Union's annual fall meeting, represents a triumph for the NASA Mars program, which had fallen on hard times due to steep budget cuts. But NASA associate administrator for science John Grunsfeld said that the agency has the funds to build and operate a second Curiosity-style rover, largely because it has a lot of spare parts and an engineering and science team that knows how to develop a follow-on expedition.

"The new science rover builds off the tremendous success from Curiosity and will have new instruments," Grunsfeld said. Curiosity II is projected to cost $1.5 billion—compared with the $2.5 billion price tag for the rover now on Mars—and will require congressional approval.

While the 2020 rover will have the same one-ton chassis as Curiosity—and could use the same sky crane technology involved in the "seven minutes of terror"—it will have different instruments and, many hope, the capacity to cache a Mars rock for later pickup and delivery to researchers on Earth. Curiosity and the other Mars rovers, satellites, and probes have garnered substantial knowledge about the Red Planet in recent decades, but planetary scientists say no Mars-based investigations can be nearly as instructive as studying a sample in person here on Earth.

(Video: Mars Rover's "Seven Minutes of Terror.")

Return to Sender

That's why "sample return" has topped several comprehensive reviews of what NASA should focus on for the next decade regarding Mars.

"There is absolutely no doubt that this rover has the capability to collect and cache a suite of magnificent samples," said astronomer Steven Squyres, with Cornell University in New York, who led a "decadal survey" of what scientists want to see happen in the field of planetary science in the years ahead. "We have a proven system now for landing a substantial payload on Mars, and that's what we need to enable sample return."

The decision about whether the second rover will be able to collect and "cache" a sample will be up to a "science definition team" that will meet in the years ahead to weigh the pros and cons of focusing the rover's activity on that task.  

As currently imagined, bringing a rock sample back to Earth would require three missions: one to select, pick up, and store the sample; a second to pick it up and fly it into a Mars orbit; and a third to take it from Mars back to Earth.

"A sample return would rely on all the Mars missions before it," said Scott Hubbard, formerly NASA's "Mars Czar," who is now at Stanford University. "Finding the right rocks from the right areas, and then being able to get there, involves science and technology we've learned over the decades."

Renewed Interest

Clearly, Curiosity's success has changed the thinking about Mars exploration, said Hubbard. He was a vocal critic of the Obama Administration's decision earlier this year to cut back on the Mars program as part of agency belt-tightening but now is "delighted" by this renewed initiative.

(Explore an interactive time line of Mars exploration in National Geographic magazine.)

More than 50 million people watched NASA coverage of Curiosity's landing and cheered the rover's success, Hubbard said. If things had turned out differently with Curiosity, "we'd be having a very different conversation about the Mars program now."

(See "Curiosity Landing on Mars Greeted With Whoops and Tears of Jubilation.")

If Congress gives the green light, the 2020 rover would be the only $1 billion-plus "flagship" mission—NASA's largest and most expensive class of projects—in the agency's planetary division in the next decade. There are many other less ambitious projects to other planets, asteroids, moons, and comets in the works, but none are flagships. That has left some planetary scientists not involved with Mars unhappy with NASA's heavy Martian focus.

Future Plans

While the announcement of the 2020 rover mission set the Mars community abuzz, NASA also outlined a series of smaller missions that will precede it. The MAVEN spacecraft, set to launch next year, will study the Martian atmosphere in unprecedented detail; a lander planned for 2018 will study the Red Planet's crust and interior; and NASA will renew its promise to participate in a European life-detection mission in 2018. NASA had signed an agreement in 2009 to partner with the European Space Agency on that mission but had to back out earlier this year because of budget constraints.

NASA said that a request for proposals would go out soon, soliciting ideas about science instruments that might be on the rover. And as for a sample return system, at this stage all that's required is the ability to identify good samples, collect them, and then store them inside the rover.

"They can wait there on Mars for some time as we figure out how to pick them up," Squyres said. "After all, they're rocks."

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Kate Middleton Leaves London Hospital

Kate Middleton left King Edward VII Hospital in London this morning after being admitted four days ago following the palace's announcement that she is pregnant and being treated for hyperemesis gravidarum.

"The Duchess of Cambridge has been discharged from the King Edward VII Hospital and will now head to Kensington Palace for a period of rest," Nick Loughran, the assistant press secretary to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, said in a statement. "Their Royal Highnesses would like to thank the staff at the hospital for the care and treatment The Duchess has received."

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Kate Middleton Pregnant: Royal Couple Expecting Watch Video

Kate Middleton Pregnant: Hospital Stay Forces Announcement Watch Video

Kate Middleton: Is Extreme Morning Sickness a Sign of Twins? Watch Video

Middleton, 30, who is less than 12 weeks pregnant, was seen leaving the hospital with Prince William at 11 a.m. GT today. A smiling Middleton was holding yellow flowers and waved to the crowd as she departed from the hospital in a black car.

The Duke and Duchess were spending time with her parents in Bucklebury when she became ill with the symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum, or acute nausea.

Prince William sprung into action and drove his wife, along with their personal security team, 50 miles in their Range Rover to the hospital, where Kate was placed on an IV drip.

The royal family was only notified of Kate's pregnancy a few hours before the rest of the world.

The royal couple decided to go public with the pregnancy because Middleton had to be hospitalized Monday afternoon, a palace source said.

Hyperemesis gravidarum, or acute nausea, is usually diagnosed about nine weeks into a pregnancy, and in most cases resolves itself by 16 or 20 weeks, according to Dr. Ashley Roman, a professor and obstetrician-gynecologist at NYU Langone Medical Center.

It can last the whole pregnancy in rare cases.

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2012 Flash Fiction shortlist: Sleep

Each day this week we will run one of the shortlisted stories from our 2012 Fash Fiction competition. Look for the winning piece in our end-of-year issue - on news stands 22 December. We've already published two: Digital Eyes and S3xD0ll. Below is the third of the five shortlisted pieces.

What our judge Alice LaPlante had to say:

This short piece packed a wallop with its economic language and compressed timeline.


By Richard Clarke

Sheri Francis, the new health minister, had one large priority for her tenure: sleep. Science repeatedly stressed the adverse effects of not enough sleep - a problem that Francis, in her first white paper on the matter, branded "undersleep".

"Studies demonstrate that a majority of the UK population are undersleeping, endangering our health and our economy,” the paper read. “The Government’s measures will free people to live fuller lives."

The curfew came into force the following month. Thousands of curfew officer jobs were created to make sure that citizens were indoors after 11pm. Power was to be switched off fifteen minutes later. Public transport was to stop service until 10am, giving citizens the chance they needed to get the correct amount of sleep.

There was resistance of course, and confusion. Protests against the policy were limited and quashed. Many of the protestors were bankers and businessmen. Workaholics, 'high-fliers', the depressed: the patterns of all of these groups were interrupted.

After a period of time, new collective habit began to settle. The nation's citizens were nudged into line. That natural craving - previously discouraged by social shame - to linger in bed was returning and, surveys suggested, it felt very good indeed.

Productivity was up, surveys reported large increases in happiness. The minister was feted. But the nation wanted more. Groups were formed to agitate for even longer periods of sleep. Extensions passed into law: almost everybody was in favour. But no amount of sleep was enough for the restless citizens. The second law specified a minimum 12 hours of sleep. Newly formed pro-sleep political parties secured increases to first 14, then 16 hours of sleep. But people found that they were unable to sustain this growth. Disaffection grew and the disaffected sought solidarity.

Eventually the sleepers were overthrown in what became known as the Wake Up Revolution. They came during the night. Sleep laws were rolled back and society gradually began to function as before. Now, only a small group of dedicated super sleepers remain, their activity illicit as before. At night they dream of counter-revolution.

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Sembcorp Marine says able to handle rig accident without activating SCDF

SINGAPORE: Sembcorp Marine said that the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) was not activated when the rig accident happened as the company was able to handle the situation.

It said only the company's emergency response team was activated.

SembCorp said its criteria for SCDF activation is when there is a major fire.

For this particular rig, the last evacuation drill was carried out in August this year.

SembCorp said it also conducts yearly joint exercises on fire and rescue operations with SCDF.

A joint drill with SCDF was carried out in September this year. Internally, the company conducts about 40 drills on a yearly basis.

When the incident happened at 10.30am on Monday, the evacuation took about 20 minutes and another 25 minutes for head count.

All in, the entire evacuation took less than an hour including the search for men overboard.

Currently, three workers are still being warded in hospital for minor injuries.

Sembcorp Marine said its Health, Safety and Environment Department (HSE) has trained personnel for emergency response such as fire-fighting, rescue operations at heights, rescue from confined space, rescue using ropes, advanced fire-fighting and fire safety management.

They also have trained paramedics and occupational doctors and nurses to render immediate first aid and medical treatment. Some of the existing HSE personnel are also ex-SCDF employees who were paramedics and fire fighters.

Separately in a Facebook post, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong commended the actions of engineer Nur'rahmahdiah Salim, who was on the oil rig at Jurong shipyard when it tilted over.

Mr Lee said the the 22-year-old had stayed behind to make sure her colleagues had evacuated safely before leaving the rig herself.

She was taken to hospital for chest pains and breathing difficulties.

"I am glad that she is back home and OK now...Well done Nur'rahmahdiah," said Mr Lee.

The accident on Monday saw 89 workers injured.

- CNA/de

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Suburban teachers end strike with tentative 3-year deal

Teachers in Community Unit District 300 reached a deal with the school board late Tuesday to end a one-day walkout in the large, far northwest suburban school district.

Talks had broken down late Monday, prompting the district's more than 1,200 teachers to go on strike Tuesday and leaving more than 20,000 students out of class.

School board member Joe Stevens announced after 9 p.m. Tuesday that, following talks that resumed at 2 p.m., the two sides has struck a three-year deal. No other details were immediately provided, but a union official called the agreement "fair to the teachers and responsible to the taxpayers."

Stevens said no further details would be released until the deal is ratified by the union and the school board. A board vote isn't expected until Dec. 18 at the earliest.

Just hours earlier, a union official had reported little progress at the resumed talks.

District 300, based in Carpentersville, was the latest among at least six Chicago-area school systems — including Chicago Public Schools — whose teachers have gone on strike this school year. Many of the same issues — class size, pay and benefits, equity of compensation compared to similar districts — have been repeated, as school boards seek new ways to control spending amid new mandates from Springfield and more modest tax receipts than before the economic downturn.

Tuesday, much of the public back-and-forth between the union and district officials was over class size. Currently, elementary classes are capped at 33 to 37 students, according to district figures, but some high school classes top 40 students, teachers said.

“You can't teach equitably that way,” Tom Domenz, an art teacher at Jacobs High in Algonquin, said from the picket line Tuesday. “Classes are all over the board. It's not fair to the kids. Parents are paying the same taxes and (students) are not getting the same attention.”

Steve Pittner, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Algonquin Middle School, said there has been “tremendous support” from parents and teachers. Students also were seen joining the picket line.

“They got to do something about the class size,” Pittner said while picketing at Algonquin Road and Main Street. “(Large classes) are not creating a culture of learning that's conducive for our students. This is the worst I've seen it. As far as class size goes, this is bad.”

But district officials said they offered a deal to teachers on Monday in which class sizes would be capped next year at 27 students in kindergarten through second grade and 30 students in grades three to five. The plan would also add 60 new teachers throughout the district.

Williamson, however, said those class sizes aren’t low enough to satisfy teachers. He also said teachers want an increase in their base salary.

The district counters that the union returned with new salary demands after the school board made its offer to lower class sizes. The district say it has offered teachers raises of 3 percent this year, 2 percent next year and 3 percent in the following — figures that include both base pay and “step increase,” additional raises that teachers in most Chicago-area districts receive each year for adding another year of seniority.

Union officials have also argued that teachers are underpaid compared to other suburban districts, according to a statement on the teachers union website.

Of the teachers strikes that have occurred so far this year in the Chicago area, Evergreen Park District 124’s was the longest, lasting 10 days.

Chicago Public School teachers were off the job for seven days, and Lake Forest High School teachers for five days. Strikes in Crystal Lake-based Prairie Grove District 46 and Highland Park-based North Shore District 112 also each lasted for one day before deals were reached.

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Scientific Results From Challenger Deep

Jane J. Lee

The spotlight is shining once again on the deepest ecosystems in the ocean—Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench (map) and the New Britain Trench near Papua New Guinea. At a presentation today at the American Geophysical Union's conference in San Francisco, attendees got a glimpse into these mysterious ecosystems nearly 7 miles (11 kilometers) down, the former visited by filmmaker James Cameron during a historic dive earlier this year.

Microbiologist Douglas Bartlett with the University of California, San Diego described crustaceans called amphipods—oceanic cousins to pill bugs—that were collected from the New Britain Trench and grow to enormous sizes five miles (eight kilometers) down. Normally less than an inch (one to two centimeters) long in other deep-sea areas, the amphipods collected on the expedition measured 7 inches (17 centimeters). (Related: "Deep-Sea, Shrimp-like Creatures Survive by Eating Wood.")

Bartlett also noted that sea cucumbers, some of which may be new species, dominated many of the areas the team sampled in the New Britain Trench. The expedition visited this area before the dive to Challenger Deep.

Marine geologist Patricia Fryer with the University of Hawaii described some of the deepest seeps yet discovered. These seeps, where water heated by chemical reactions in the rocks percolates up through the seafloor and into the ocean, could offer hints of how life originated on Earth.

And astrobiologist Kevin Hand with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, spoke about how life in these stygian ecosystems, powered by chemical reactions, could parallel the evolution of life on other planets.

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Majority Back Clinton for Presidential Bid in 2016

ap hillary clinton jp 121204 wblog Hillary Clinton Wins High Popularity, Majority Support for a 2016 Bid

Kevin Lamarque/AP Photo

Carried by a new high in personal popularity and broad approval of her work as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton closes out her diplomatic career with majority support as a candidate for president in 2016.

Fifty-seven percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say they’d back a run by Clinton to succeed Barack Obama, vs. 37 percent opposed. That includes a broad gender gap – 66 percent support for Clinton among women, dropping to 49 percent among men.

See PDF with full results, charts and tables here.

Clinton is expected to step down soon from her leadership of the State Department, a position she accepted after narrowly losing the Democratic presidential nomination to Obama in 2008. She’s demurred on the prospect of another bid for the presidency.

Clinton’s fared well during her tenure at State; 68 percent approve of her work, second only to Colin Powell among the last five secretaries of state. (He managed a remarkable 85 percent approval in 2002 and 2003.) Similarly, two-thirds in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, see Clinton favorably overall, numerically a new high in her long public career as first lady, U.S. Senator, presidential candidate and top U.S. diplomat.

Clinton’s recovered from personal favorability as low as 44 percent in April 2008, during her presidential run; she also dropped that low in June 2003, when she was discussed as a possible candidate in the 2004 presidential race, and in June 1996, during the Whitewater controversy. Those dips underscore the potential risks should she climb back into the political fray.

In another sign of the challenges of a political candidacy, intensity of sentiment is better for Clinton personally, and as secretary of state, than it is for her as a candidate. Her “strongly” favorable rating and strong approval of her job performance outnumber her strong negatives, in both cases, by more than 2-1 margins. Strong support for her as a candidate also outweighs strong opposition, but much more narrowly, by 9 percentage points, 36 to 27 percent.

2016 and GROUPS – Politics are comparative, so actual support for Clinton as a candidate would depend more than anything on her opponents, in the Democratic primaries and general election alike. That said, having 57 percent willing to give you a look (55 percent among registered voters) is not a bad starting point – and the differences among groups are telling.

In addition to the gender gap there are sharp differences between age and racial groups, generally similar to Obama’s support patterns. Young adults, age 18 to 29, support Clinton for president by nearly 2-1; that falls to an even split among seniors. And while she gets 52 percent support among whites, that jumps to 70 percent among nonwhites, a strongly Democratic group.

Clinton does less well among nonwhites than did Obama, who won re-election with 80 percent of their support last month. That said, while majorities of white men and married men say they’d oppose a Clinton candidacy, she’s backed by more than six in 10 white women and married women – two groups that Obama lost.

Among other groups, support for Clinton in 2016 tops out at eight in 10 Democrats and liberals, vs. 23 and 24 percent of Republicans and strong conservatives, respectively. About two-thirds of moderates and six in 10 independents say they’d support a Clinton candidacy.

It’s hard to see Clinton winning 23 percent of Republicans in an actual campaign; no Democrat has come close to that mark in exit polls dating back 36 years. That’s another sign that, while currently her numbers are positive, actually running for president can be messier than it looks from a popular perch at Foggy Bottom.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cell phone Nov. 28-Dec. 2, 2012, among a random national sample of 1,020 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 4 points. The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by SSRS/Social Science Research Solutions of Media, Pa.

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2012 Flash Fiction shortlist: S3xD0ll


Each day this week we will run one of the shortlisted stories from our 2012 Fash Fiction competition. Look for the winning piece in our end-of-year issue - on news stands 22 December. The first story went up yesterday: below is the second of the five.

What our judge Alice LaPlante had to say:

Witty and structurally sophisticated, this piece also exploited tension in a way that kept readers on their toes.


By Kevlin Henney

Trouble. Big trouble. Big luscious lips and deep sensual eyes, staring at me. Big, deep and up-to-my-neck-in-it trouble.

Cath is due back any minute. Enough time to contrive an apology, but not enough to undo this mess.

"Don't spend all morning surfing dodgy sites." She winked as she headed for the door. "You need to buy milk and something for dinner. Speaking of surfing, don't forget to renew the firewall and anti-virus subscription; it expired yesterday. I'll be back at two to print out my portfolio."

I should have got my act together and headed out to the shops immediately, renewing the subscription on my return, rewarding myself with a coffee. The rest of the day would have been mine to squander. Should have... but as the door closed, my subconscious had already prioritised surfing with coffee over shopping and subscription renewal.

OK, I'll admit I may have looked at some sites that had nothing to do with my thesis write-up... including a couple that didn't involve pictures of cats. I was tempted to renew the subscription as further procrastination, but it was midday and the high street would be busy, getting busier.

Well, I've just renewed the sub and scanned and fixed the PC, but that's locking the barn door after the horse has bolted and the printer cartridges have emptied. How was I to know one of those sites had the S3xD0ll virus?

When I got back from the shops I thought Cath had returned early because the printer was chuntering away in the background. Cheap 3D printers have knocked the low end out of the consumer products market, with open-sourced and pirated designs online further squeezing the product designer jobs market. Cath, however, has secured an interview and she was going to print out some of her work to take along. In preparation she'd bought litres of plastic and metal powders... now used up. In their place I have a life-sized animatronic sex doll to explain away. Big luscious lips and deep sensual eyes, staring at me with preprogrammed expectation.

And that's the front door.

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Motor Racing: Hamilton hopes to improve on Mercedes car next season

SINGAPORE: Former Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton hopes to improve on the Mercedes car next season.

The 2008 champion is back in Singapore to inspire and give out grants to 33 Institute of Technical Education students at the ITE College West.

The scholarship was set up by billionaire Peter Lim in 2010 to nurture local sporting talents.

When asked about the recent controversy surrounding the F1 title, Hamilton brushed it off saying he couldn't care less if Sebastian Vettel or Fernando Alonso won it.

Hamilton, who will join the Mercedes F1 team next season, admitted he had to work with a slight disadvantage at Mercedes.

"I'm really excited about it. They have a slightly worse car at the moment, but if I was able to go there and help them direct that car and turn it into a good car, that's the best feeling I could probably have, he said."

- CNA/de

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District 300 teachers set to walk out this morning


(Tribune illustration / March 5, 2012)

Teachers in Carpentersville School District 300 went out on strike this morning after failing to reach an agreement on a new contract.

Negotiators for the teachers union and the school district met for nearly nine hours Monday but failed to reach an agreement, according to a statement posted by the school district.

Union officials have argued that teachers are underpaid compared to other suburban districts, yet administrators have portrayed them as “greedy and unreasonable,” according to a statement on the teachers union website.

The district in the far northwest suburbs has more than 20,000 students in grades kindergarten through 12 and employs about 1,200 teachers.

Several suburban teachers unions have staged walkouts since Chicago Public Schools teachers went on strike this fall. Most of the strikes lasted between one day and about a week.

Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking

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Mars Rover Detects Simple Organic Compounds

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has detected several simple carbon-based organic compounds on Mars, but it remains unclear whether they were formed via Earthly contamination or whether they contain only elements indigenous to the planet.

Speaking at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco, Curiosity mission leaders also said that the compound perchlorate—identified previously in polar Mars—appeared to also be present in Gale Crater, the site of Curiosity's exploration.

The possible discovery of organics—or carbon-based compounds bonded to hydrogen, also called hydrocarbons—could have major implications for the mission's search for more complex organic material.

It would not necessarily mean that life exists now or ever existed on Mars, but it makes the possibility of Martian life—especially long ago when the planet was wetter and warmer—somewhat greater, since available carbon is considered to be so important to all known biology.

(See "Mars Curiosity Rover Finds Proof of Flowing Water—A First.")

The announcements came after several weeks of frenzied speculation about a "major discovery" by Curiosity on Mars. But project scientist John Grotzinger said that it remains too early to know whether Martian organics have been definitely discovered or if they're byproducts of contamination brought from Earth.

"When this data first came in, and then was confirmed in a second sample, we did have a hooting and hollering moment," he said.

"The enthusiasm we had was perhaps misunderstood. We're doing science at the pace of science, but news travels at a different speed."

Organics Detected Before on Mars

The organic compounds discovered—different combinations of carbon, hydrogen, and chlorine—are the same or similar to chlorinated organics detected in the mid-1970s by the Viking landers.

(Related: "Life on Mars Found by NASA's Viking Mission?")

At the time, the substances were written off as contamination brought from Earth, but now scientists know more about how the compounds could be formed on Mars. The big question remains whether the carbon found in the compounds is of Martian or Earthly origin.

Paul Mahaffy, the principal investigator of the instrument that may have found the simple organics—the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM)—said that while the findings were not "definitive," they were significant and would require a great deal of further study.

Mahaffy also said the discovery came as a surprise, since the soil sample involved was hardly a prime target in the organics search. In fact, the soil was scooped primarily to clean out the rover's mobile laboratory and soil-delivery systems.

Called Rocknest, the site is a collection of rocks with rippled sand around them—an environment not considered particularly promising for discovery. The Curiosity team has always thought it had a much better chance of finding the organics in clays and sulfate minerals known to be present at the base of Mount Sharp, located in the Gale Crater, where the rover will head early next year.

(See the Mars rover Curiosity's first color pictures.)

The rover has been at Rocknest for a month and has scooped sand and soil five times. It was the first site where virtually all the instruments on Curiosity were used, Grotzinger said, and all of them proved to be working well.

They also worked well in unison—with one instrument giving the surprising signal that the minerals in the soil were not all crystalline, which led to the intensive examination of the non-crystalline portion to see if it contained any organics.

Rover Team "Very Confident"

The simple organics detected by SAM were in the chloromethane family, which contains compounds that are sometimes used to clean electronic equipment. Because it was plausible that Viking could have brought the compounds to Mars as contamination, that conclusion was broadly accepted.

But in 2010, Chris McKay of NASA's Ames Research Center and Rafael Navarro-Gonzalez of the National Autonomous University of Mexico published an influential paper describing how dichloromethane can be a byproduct of the heating of other organic material in the presence of the compound perchlorate.

They conducted the experiment because NASA's Phoenix mission had discovered large amounts of perchlorate in the northern polar soil of Mars, and it seems plausible that it would exist elsewhere on the planet.

"In terms of the SAM results, there are two important conclusions," said McKay, a scientist on the SAM team.

"The first is confirming the perchlorate story—that it's most likely there and seems to react at high temperatures with organic material to form the dichloromethane and other simple organics."

"The second is that we'll have to either find organics without perchlorates nearby, or find a way to get around that perchlorate wall that keeps us from identifying organics," he said.

Another SAM researcher, Danny Glavin of Goddard, said his team is "very confident" about the reported detection of the hydrocarbons, and that they were produced in the rover's ovens. He said it is clear that the chlorine in the compounds is from Mars, but less clear about the carbon.

"We will figure out what's going on here," he said. "We have the instruments and we have the people. And whatever the final conclusions, we will have learned important things about Mars that we can use in the months ahead."

Author of the National Geographic e-book Mars Landing 2012, Marc Kaufman has been a journalist for more than 35 years, including the past 12 as a science and space writer, foreign correspondent, and editor for the Washington Post. He is also author of First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs in the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth, published in 2011, and has spoken extensively to crowds across the United States and abroad about astrobiology. He lives outside Washington, D.C., with his wife, Lynn Litterine.

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Insiders Reveal 2012 Election Secrets

ht obama romney meeting wy 121129 wblog New Revelations From Obama/Romney Campaign on Immigration, Facebook and That Eastwood Speech

Pete Souza/White House

The 2012 election cycle came full circle last week when representatives from the Obama and Romney campaigns, as well as top advisers to many of the GOP primary candidates and several influential outside groups, gathered at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government for a 2012 debrief — finally answering some of the lingering questions about the race.

On neutral ground in Cambridge, Mass., fierce rivals (think Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades and strategist Stuart Stevens and Obama campaign manager Jim Messina and strategist David Axelrod) met for the first time since the election — and many for the first time ever.

The conference, organized by Harvard’s Institute of Politics, featured a who’s who of political bold-faced names from campaign 2012, including senior campaign aides like Romney political director Rich Beeson and pollster Neil Newhouse, Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter and digital director Teddy Goff, Rick Santorum adviser John Brabender, former Rick Perry campaign operatives Rob Johnson and Dave Carney and even Mark Block, who ran Herman Cain’s short-lived but much-talked-about presidential bid.

Representatives from the outside groups that had so much influence — and spent so much money — on the election were also on hand, including Bill Burton, senior strategist for the pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action; Steven Law, head of the pro-Republican group American Crossroads; and Tim Phillips, president of the conservative Americans for Prosperity.

Dozens of campaign 2012 veterans and journalists were on hand for the sessions, which covered the GOP primary, the general election, campaign strategy, the debates, conventions and the emerging power of the super PACS.

Here are some of the highlights from the conference:

Romney’s Campaign Concedes Immigration Position in Primary Was a Mistake

Mitt Romney’s decision to take a hard-line stance on immigration during the GOP primary was considered a big reason for his paltry 27 percent showing among Latino voters. But, the conventional wisdom has suggested that Romney couldn’t have won the primary without drawing a strong contrast with Texas Gov. Rick Perry on this hot-button issue.

Romney campaign manager Matt Rhodes, however, says that his candidate could have won the primary without attacking Perry’s support for in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.  When asked by panel moderator Jonathan Martin of Politico whether he “regret[s] trying to outflank Perry on the right on immigration,” Rhoades took a long pause, and then shifted the conversation to Perry’s controversial statements about Social Security. Romney had attacked the Texas governor for calling the popular entitlement program a “Ponzi scheme” and a “failure.”

“In retrospect,” Rhoades said. “I believe we probably could have just beaten Perry with the Social Security hit.”

So while Rhoades never said he wished that Romney had never uttered the words, “self-deportation” he essentially conceded that he regrets the immigration position the governor took in the primary.

The Obama Campaign Only Fully Committed to Florida in Mid-September

If there was one state that the Romney campaign felt confident they were going to win it was Florida. And, until mid-September, the Obama campaign wasn’t convinced that they were going to contest the state. That changed in the aftermath of the strong convention in Charlotte, however, and the Obama campaign decided that they were going to go “full out” to win there.

Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod:

“One of the things that we had discussed internally was the state of Florida and how we were going to treat Florida. We had made a decision that we were going to wait until mid September and after the conventions to see where we were in Florida before we fully committed. We were in, we had invested a lot, but we hadn’t been in the Miami media market. When we emerged from conventions not only had we gotten a little bump, but we saw Florida remained very competitive and made the decision to go full out in Florida.”

Team Romney Never Read Clint Eastwood Speech

Romney strategist and convention director Russ Schrieffer was asked by panel moderator Ron Brownstein of National Journal if anyone actually read a copy of Eastwood’s speech. The answer: not so much.

Russ Schrieffer: “I said [to Eastwood] are you going to do what we talked about, are you going to talk about what you talked about at these fundraisers. And he looked at me and said.. ‘Yep.’ ”

Laughter followed Schrieffer’s comments to which he replied:

“It’s Clint Eastwood, you argue with him.”

Republicans Are Worried (And Rightly So) About the Technology Gap With Democrats: 

Jon Huntsman’s campaign manager Matt David noted that “one area we should freak out about is technology. The GOP is far behind there.”

The Obama campaign used social media as a means to an end — using technology as a way to recruit, persuade, target and turn out voters.  Obama’s digital campaign guru Teddy Goff pointed to the power of Facebook in helping to find a previously unreachable group of potential voters: the friends of those who were already voting for the President.

In 2008, said Goff, they found that “99 percent of our email list voted.” As such, Goff said, “We entered into this election, with an understanding that anyone we were talking to directly, the vast majority were voting for us. So the question was … how can we serve them with stuff that will make them go out and get their friends.” And, Obama’s Facebook fans were a great place to start. Obama’s 33 million Facebook fans globally are friends with 98 percent of the U.S. Facebook population, Goff said.

Facebook also helped the campaign track down their coveted 18-to-29-year-old cohort. Goff explained that they were unable to reach half of their 18-to-29 GOTV targets by phone because they didn’t have a phone number for them. But, he said, they could reach 85 percent of that group via a Friend of Barack Obama on Facebook. “We had an ability to reach those people who simply otherwise couldn’t be reached,” Goff said.

Was the Romney High Command Really and Truly Shocked on Election Night? 

Neil Newhouse, Romney pollster:

“Here’s what we saw in the data: you have to give credit to the Obama campaign for undercutting it. We saw in the last two weeks, an intensity advantage, a campaign interest advantage, an enthusiasm advantage for Republicans and Mitt Romney. … Just the same as we saw four years ago on behalf of Barack Obama. We thought it would tilt the partisan make-up of the electorate a couple points in our direction.

“We weren’t surprised by racial composition; we were surprised by the partisan composition. … The real hidden story here on our side, the number of white men who didn’t vote in this election compared to four years ago was extraordinary. And these white men were replaced by white women. We were taking a group we won by 27 points and replacing them with a group we won by 12-14 points.”

Perry Should Have Waited Until Late Fall, Not Summer, to Jump In:

Perry strategist Dave Carney said the biggest tactical mistake made by Perry was that “we should have started years ago.” Perry, as governor in a state with a part-time legislature, “had a lot of time on his hands” — he should have used that time, and his role as RGA chair, to meet donors and travel the country before 2011. Once Perry decided to get in, however, Carney argues the Perry should have waited until mid-October or November to get into the race. That extra few months, said Carney, “would have given us more time to be prepared and do the groundwork that was necessary on the issues.”

What Role Did Karl Rove Play With Republican Outside Groups Like American Crossroads, Which He Co-founded?

Steven Law, president and CEO of American Crossroads and president CrossroadsGPS:

“Karl … recognized it was really important to not simply have an organization exist in a particular cycle for a tactical use but to … start to build enduring institutional strength on the right the way that we saw the unions providing that for the Democrats. … And then there were certain other parts that I think Karl really gets credit for. The first is encouraging us to reach out to other center-right groups and to try to start to collaborate where we were legally permitted to do so to share information and encourage people to pull the oars in the same direction. On the fundraising side both he and Ed [Gillespie] and then later on Haley Barbour were all tremendously instrumental in harvesting their Rolodexes and relationships. Karl is a guy that’s got tremendously good ideas, and again, not so much on the tactical side but more kind of broad strategic moments and was a tremendously useful and valuable source of ideas along the way.”

Bill Burton, senior adviser, Priorities USA Action:

“He also helped us raise money. I probably e-mailed out every one of his columns to our donors — our high-dollar list — to point out what they were saying on the Republican side and how confident Rove was. … When he would go on TV bursting with confidence about Romney winning, that little click went around every single time. Karl Rove is an enduring figure for both sides.”

After Rove’s Appearance on Fox News on Election Night, Is He Discredited Within the Republican Party?

Steven Law:

“Absolutely not. We all get our turn in the barrel.”

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